Divorce can affect one's life in many ways, but its financial effects are often the most significant. As such, some couples opt for legal separation, as it allows them to keep some benefits enjoyed by married couples. According to Maryland law, there is no filing to be considered legally separated. The only thing that constitutes a legal separation is that the couple no longer lives under the same roof.
One of the most advantageous features of a legal separation is that it allows spouses to continue sharing benefits. For instance, a couple that is legally separated may stay on each others' insurance plans. After a divorce, the dependent party may only do so for a limited period of time, after which he or she must secure their own policy.
Legal separation is rarely permanent and often precedes an eventual divorce. As such, experts recommend that separated couples begin taking measures to plan for their futures. A non-binding agreement made during separation can be used as a precedent during a subsequent divorce, making it important to consider the terms of such agreements carefully. Experts say that even agreements that are not equitable or done with the assistance of an attorney could still eventually become part of a divorce settlement. For instance, informally accepting a certain monthly sum in spousal support could make it difficult to secure a higher alimony award upon one's official divorce.
Once a couple decides to divorce, they are no longer entitled to marital privileges like tax filing benefits, inheritance rights or the ability to make decisions on behalf of each other. Couples that have been married for 10 years or longer can still share Social Security benefits, however.
Source: Fox Business, ">Separation or Divorce? What Each Means for Your Finances," July 25, 2012